United Utilities begins global hunt for gamechanging tech

United Utilities begins global hunt for gamechanging tech

Since 2018, United Utilities’ Innovation Lab has collaborated with 15 companies, bringing new entrants to the sector and jobs to the North West.

New tech to emerge from previous Innovation Labs includes using UV LEDs to disinfect drinking water and pioneering the use of AI to track down leaks.

Applications for the third cohort will open in the week beginning 13 July. United Utilities’ Innovation Lab gives innovative businesses a unique opportunity to collaborate with the water company to tackle key business challenges. The programme is being run in collaboration with corporate innovation specialist L Marks.

Successful applicants will be co-located and work hand-in-glove with United Utilities to test, develop, improve, and demonstrate their product or service offering in a live customer environment over a 12-week period.

As well as testing their ideas, participants also get access to subject matter experts and senior leaders. In previous labs, success in the programme has led to long-term commercial partnerships.

This year each category is focussed on how innovative companies can help United Utilities serve its customers better and help improve performance addressing the following challenges:

  • Systems thinking: As equipment and systems get ever more interconnected, United Utilities is looking for innovative companies to help reach the highest levels of capability in each of these focus areas within five years; Asset lifecycle management, Operational Monitoring, Operational Control, Production Planning & Optimisation, Customer Experience, Work Scheduling and Data & Information.

  • Circular economy and natural systems: The water industry relies on the water cycle which is by its nature a circular economy. United Utilities wants to go further and is looking for solutions that make use of the natural system and processes to solve traditional problems across water, wastewater, and bio-resources.

  • Future of water – ODIs and more: Outcome Delivery Incentives (ODIs) are how regulators and customers measure the performance of water companies, so UU is looking for technologies that can help meet these metrics and provide sustainable, cost effective and relevant services for its customers.

  • Wildcard: This new category, is open to any new company whose technology could transform any aspect of UU’s business.

The firm’s chief executive Steve Mogford said, “We’re always astonished at the ingenuity of applicants in improving our business in ways we would not have believed. That is why we have introduced a new ‘wildcard’ category. We are giving companies an open playing field to tell us what they think we need, and I am looking forward to seeing what this year’s cohort brings.”

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